Unsettling Resettlement

My research recently has been on the so-called secondary migration of refugees. I thought I’d share some informative maps I made on the impact of secondary migration on the dispersion of refugees across the United States. It is not too difficult to imagine the implications this has on US refugee assistance policy.

The first map is the initial resettlement locations of refugees at the beginning of fiscal year 2012.

Refugee Dispersion June 2012 - Projection

The second map is of the same group of refugees, a year later, after taking into account movement after resettlement.

Refugee Dispersion June 2013 - Projection

You are free to draw your own conclusions. One obvious one is refugees are much less spread out after they move around. Refugees seem to value living close to each other. A final overarching observation is perhaps refugee resettlement is a bit misleading, as a large number of refugees don’t settle in their initial placement location. I’d love to hear what you think of the maps in the comments section.

4 thoughts on “Unsettling Resettlement”

  1. HI Jeff – interesting map & application to your research! Is it saying that refugees are all moving to Texas, Minnesota, and California? Its curious that the number of states in each of quintile decreases in all but the 3rd quintile, I think. Are the intervals & raw #s behind quintiles the same?

    1. Joel – Great questions! Texas and California are top initial resettlement locations, so their inclusion in the top quintile suggests low net migration. Minnesota, however, isn’t a top initial resettlement location. After secondary migration Minnesota experiences a net inflow of over 2,000 refugees, a 106% increase in their refugee population! In just one year! It seems to me that at least in recent years this is driven by Somali refugees who desire to live close to other Somalis. I think one way to interpret this is that prior to secondary migration 20% of refugees live in 10 states while after 20% live in 3 states. So, while a major priority of US refugee policy is to “spread the burden” of refugee resettlement, refugees tend to clump together.

  2. Jeff, this is pretty cool analysis – there’s a lot of ways to look at this at different scales. Do you find this data from Census Bureau? I guess this would explain the large enclaves of Sudanese & Ugandan in Boston; Ethiopian & Eritrean in DC; Somalis in Minnesota; and so on. Clumping certainly happens, but not immediately.

    1. The data used here is collected by the US Office of Refugee Resettlement. The ORR only collects inter-state migration data, however. My guess is that much more bunching occurs if we were able to observe migration between cities, or even within cities.

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